Tuesday, 22 November 2011


The summer holidays are not complete if I don't go to the beach..it’s a culture I grew up in. Sometimes I find myself craving the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing vengefully against the rocks and the snow white colour of the waves. The excitement of the looming beach visit is unfortunately marred by the recurring dreams I'm having about the dreaded bikini. In my dreams I mostly just curse the French for inventing this so called "emancipated swimwear"..

Every year I buy a cute two piece with the naive intention of wearing it and bearing all at the beach, and I always end up wearing just the top with shorts. The two piece bikini feels a little too much like underwear to me..and don't forget the fact that it also looks very much like underwear. This is not a question of body image or whether you are thin or fiercely real; for me this is a question of comfort...

Some women look and feel great in a two piece bikini; but for the rest of us going to the beach in that 'state' can be a nightmare. 

 I could not understand why the fashion world embraced the bikini so warmly and why they would call it emancipated beach wear. It just seemed to me that a random man a long time ago, decided to put a woman like so many times before in a skimpy little two piece to prance around in. This may sound like the ramblings of a feminist; and maybe they are. I cannot ignore the overwhelming presence of bikinis in every clothing store indicating to me that there is a high demand for this scanty swimwear, and that many women may not share my sentiments.

I started thinking that maybe the emancipation is not of the two piece swim suit but of the woman who has the choice of whether or not to wear the two piece swim suit. The very existence of the bikini may feel like an insult to some, but the emancipated woman knows not to feel pressured to wear these briefs. She is also smart enough to know that if it doesn't feel good, it probably won't look good either.

I have not waged war on the bikini, and I have not written off swim wear altogether; Once I got past the fear of the swimsuit section, and looked beyond the two piece I found some wearable beach wear.
The kaftan is the most useful of the lot in my opinion; you can cover up before and after the dips, or while you bask in the sun.
I am going the one piece route this year..and will be keeping the fabulous kaftan close by..

Sunday, 20 November 2011


It’s no secret that popular culture celebrates the ‘thin’ and associates them with being happy and beautiful. This misconception has somehow been entrenched in our brains, so much so that the very thought of 5 more kilograms in our bodies is enough to send us into a deep dark place. I recently went into such a dark place when a lady at the canteen innocently commented that I had put on weight; she said “unonile” (you've gained weight) with a misguided enthusiasm. Those few words sent me into shock followed by an immediate wager of war against food, and in seconds I went from “happy” to insecure and miserable.

As the voice in my head was outlining a boot camp-like exercise regime and eating plan for the next few weeks or at least until those pesky 5 kilograms fall off; I realised how willingly and easily I become unhappy. I was reminded of an ancient Hindu saying that "the mind is maya" (mad). According to this  ancient belief  the mind will actively seek circumstances and reasons to make it unhappy. I couldn’t help but feel my mind had indeed gone mad; I was having a good morning until my mind without my consent decided to make this woman’s comment the "falling of the sky". At that moment I made my entire existence about a number on the scale, I reduced myself to something very small.

The obsession with being thin however tacit, is present around us. This calorie counting preoccupation is un African; this can be proven quite simply by observing any grandmother’s reaction to a few extra kilos on a beloved granddaughters butt. These extra kilos are met with praise and pride, and seen as a true testament of the said granddaughter’s happiness. So then it appears the obsession with being thin is a new age phenomena amongst AfricansFashion has certainly played a big role in the rise of the skeleton age, with models that are too thin giving the impression that those gorgeous clothes are made only to look good on the thin. Every other advert on TV seems to depict a thin seemingly happy person; magazines are also not without blame.

What baffles me is how all the fiercely real* ladies I know don’t spend their days counting the number of calories they have consumed, or obsessing over how much of those calories must be burnt off. I’m very envious of how unapologetic these ladies are, they don’t base their beauty on a number nor do they base it on the unsolicited opinions of others. These fiercely real woman carry a few extra pounds and they are not asking  anyone for permission or approval.  
This to me offers conclusive proof that self esteem, self image and confidence have very little to do with what the scale reads and more to do with one’s internal image and sense of self. 

Our definition of what beautiful is cannot be left to others to scope out; we must be in a position to tweak and tweeze this definition as we choose. We the descendants of voluptuous women like Sarah Baartman have a beauty incomparable to any other; and any attempt to align or match it to others does a great injustice.

Instead of watching the scales like a hawk lets watch our blood pressures and sugar levels. I personally am tired of the weight watch, and to quote Jessica Weiner; “Life does not begin five pounds from now”

* Fiercely real <Ladies with curves and owning them>

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Fashion is no longer just a woman’s thing; the man has staked his claim on the perfectly stitched suit and the eye catching bow tie. The usual stereotypes around fashion conscious men have reluctantly subdued. With the rise of the metro-man came a surge in the runway shows showing men’s wear; and designers who only designed for women now have a men’s line. 


The French men have for decades been termed ‘fashionable’; the men’s fashion industry in France can be traced back to Louis XIV’s era. Modern day Paris has a men’s fashion week; where French man can ooh and aah over the latest trends in fashion. It’s no surprise then that many consider French fashion the benchmark against which all fashion shall be compared.

The African fashion industry is still very much focused on women, a men’s fashion week at the moment is a pipe dream. However there is a commendable number of SA fashion designers who have put the much needed spot light on men’s fashion; David Tlale with his feminine take on the macho men, Carducci and Fabioni dressing the stylish corporate man. 

The men’s designer fashion in SA may still be teething but there is a fashionable African man demanding to be noticed. This man chooses to wear a shirt because it gives that ‘I just don’t care what I wear’ impression as opposed to the man who chooses any shirt because he really could not care less what he wears.

 David Tlale stunned fashion enthusiasts nationwide recently when he showed an ultra feminine men’s line. The line showed astonishingly flowing men’s skirts. Needless to say the SA man was not ready for this radical move; but one can’t help but hail king David for this bold step. The skirt line may have been somewhat drastic; and the SA men may not have welcomed it with open arms, but there is an inspiring audacity and fearlessness in this designer. With avant garde designs such as Tlale’s that force the audience to stretch their imagination and re-examine their predefined concepts about fashion, SA fashion is on the right track.

The art form of fashion is one many can identify with. It is an expressive art; through which one’s individuality can shine. Men who have found the balance between the art of fashion and the practicality of clothing can take better calculated risks with little disastrous outcomes.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


The movie I saw recently, 'The Help' was recommended by a friend and I loved every second of the 2 hours and 26 minutes. It is based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett also called The Help. 
Set in Civil Rights era America in the early 1960s; the film is about a young white woman, Eugenia Phelan ‘Skeeter’, and her relationship with two black maids portrayed by Viola Davis and Octavio Spencer. 
Without revealing too much  Skeeter is a journalist who decides to write a controversial book from the point of view of the maids (known as the Help), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families. 
The story line and the acting alike are just heavenly; the perfect casting and the on point costume design both bring authenticity to the story, undoubtedly worthy of every tear I shed.
This should not be seen as a depreciation of the intended message of this civil rights movie; but my favourite part of the movie is the glorious 60’s fashion, however the incandescent portrayal of “Aibileen” by Viola Davis comes a very close second. The costume designer did an amazing job staying true to the “Mad Men” era. 
The ladies outfits are hyper-feminine, the dresses are in bright colours I just love; they are full skirted and nipped at the waist. 
I salivated as I imagined myself in a bold floral print clinched at the waist, accentuating my womanly treasures in a modest and classy way.
These dresses ooze elegance and a covert sexiness that leaves the right amount to the imagination. 

The women of the 60s were strong and brave; they were part of the civil rights movement,  they formed the Sharpeville resistance against pass laws, all while making sure one has the perfect dress on.   
They paved the way for me, so I may fully realise myself. I take from this movie the incredible strength and the personal style that every woman should exude.
If it were not for the big hair, the bad shoes and the unspeakable atrocities of racism; I would have loved to have been alive in the 60’s.

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